red vs blue

A while ago on one of the net-art email lists I subscribe to, there was discussion about performance in video games, using the game engines to create new worlds, or using multi-player and taking a feed from the screen to edit it. This week, Halo 2 arrived and has made more than $100 million in sales already, putting video games clearly in the same realm as block-buster movies.

Not having an X-Box to play it on, but wanting to see some video from it for a Halo-based performance I’m working on, I stumbled across Red Vs Blue. Now up to episode 43, it follows the dim-witted daily life of Red and Blue Teams as they do battle, learn to drive a tank, and generally wonder what they are doing in the universe. It’s a work of genius, up there with the best of South Park or Beavis and Butthead.

From there, I stumbled over to Machinima a giant site of films made using game engines. From the juvenile Red Vs Blue using QuickTime to view, to Blade Runner done entirely in Unreal Tournament 2004’s Matinee. ALl of this is a world of animation that is daunting in its sophistication, yet often incredibly simple in its piggy-backing on the gaming environments and engines.

unreal tournament presents swan lake

What more can someone do inside a MMORPG (massive multi-player online role-playing game) than just play the game? From the empyre networked discussion list amidst a very long and interesting correspondence on gaming came this question:

“Does anyone know if there are any examples of art events/pieces happening inside these semi-public environments? Has anyone ever done a performance inside Everquest for example?”

Which produced various replies from friends – the quake episode, where an entire episode of the truely aweful sit-com was reinacted inside an online quake arena…

Is Quake Friends a brilliant critique of the Buddhist nature of online gaming, where all the world’s a stage, and the players get reincarnated continuously to serve their place on the great wheel of life? Or is DeLappe the laziest performance artist in history? Can valid art exist in an online gaming server? What next: UT2k3 Touched By An Angel?

through to the mixed-reality of pus and fester and Eddo Stern who reworks Wolfenstein allowing Israeli players to invade Nazi Germany, and cockfight arena

A one night parade of sweat and adrenaline hopes to reclaim performance art in the age of video games, pitting viewer against viewer in brutal virtual cockfighting theater. Audience volunteers suited up in custom-made wireless game controllers with full sized wings and feathered helmets. Combatants stepped into an arena to control their life size game avatars through vigorous flapping and pecking, competing for blood and birdfeed while rapaciously inflicting onscreen bodily harm in a custom made “joustlike” fighting game.

So, it got me thinking about the project I’m doing at Taipei Artist Village, and suddenly the idea of staging Swan Lake in its entirety inside one of the games I spend way too many hours playing seemed like a good idea.